Down on the Dam


 Our escape is – increasingly – sought in the dam.  It’s where I find the space I crave, and the peace – silent after the midnight shriek of trains, the call of strange voices that waft over the fence, the tinny strains of disco music or more melancholy sounds emananting from nearby church. It’s where kids and dogs can stretch their legs and run or ride bikes. It feels – as we pile out of the car and spill onto the banks of the dam – like we’re disentangling ourselves from a match box. People romantise Africa, all that space, they say. Yes. Well. All that space it may be, but not if you live in a suburban Outpost.


So, it’s to the dam we go when we find home is making us cranky because we’re falling over one another inside or going a little stir-crazy cooped up in a garden you couldn’t swing a cat in (not that I’d try mind you, not with mine – she’s so evil-tempered she’d chew my arm off). Inevitably, because it feels like an outing, an adventure (and even if it doesn’t I’m of the school of thought that dictates Occassion ought be sought in the most mundane) we go armed with food and drink.

That’s what we did this weekend. We drove. We found a tree. We parked. We uncoiled ourselves. We laughed.


We got sunburnt despite wide brimmed hats.

 hat-in-a-hat.jpg                    me-in-a-hat.jpg      

We messed about by the water. We ate a picnic lunch and Amelia wanted to know why the popcorn tasted so good: because we’re in the bush, I told her, food always tastes better when eaten in the bush.

We threw sticks for the dogs until they were exhausted wading through hip-high water.


                    boy-in-a-hat.jpg        ballet-dancer.jpg

We collected wild flowers. We engaged with the local fishermen who drag nets up and down the dam and catch tiny tilapia and we begged from them a few of the tiniest to stock our own pond (in the hope they may keep the mosquitoes at bay) and we put them in a jar and brought them home.


Getting Out used to mean something different before Outpost life. It meant seeing people. Lots of them. And all more or less like-minded. It meant conversation and being able to tell yourself you had a Good Social Life. But Getting Out here means being a little less demanding and lot more creative. It means learning to elicit from the smallest thing, maximum pleasure: like five pop-eyed fish staring at Hat from the insides of an empty Nescafe jar as she named them: mum, dad, Ben, Amelia and Hat!

 But most of all Getting Out means Going Home and finding it’s not so bad.



3 Responses to “Down on the Dam”

  1. mwanafunzi Says:

    What a day, i enjoyed reading the post so much that i was taken aback to those long sunny days in Africa…actually in Pemba Island, visiting my grandma…No mechanical noises just whizzing sound of fresh air, birds on trees singing beautiful of songs, ever growing palm trees swinging side to side dancing to the tune of the wind. oooh what a day!!

  2. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thanks Mwanafunzi; yup that kind of wild makes me happy too.

  3. Carolyn Says:

    I hope no birds eat your little fishies!

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